On Sunday, the inevitable will finally come to pass: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce that she’s running for president. Though it’s all too easy to already be exhausted at the prospect of another Clinton presidential bid and the start of America’s hyperactive campaign season, the former senator and first lady enters the 2016 race as the hands-down favorite to succeed President Barack Obama in January of 2017. And so we must consider the question: What to make of this giant of American and international politics?
Here at Foreign Policy, we’ve spilled quite a bit of ink over Clinton, and our archives are replete with articles considering her legacy as secretary of state. How that legacy is understood will surely be a key question of the coming campaign. Clinton is likely to sell herself both as a champion of the American middle class and as an effective steward of the country’s ambitions abroad. Her critics are likely to attack her time at the State Department as a muddled mess lacking any real accomplishments.
Without further ado, here, then, is a guide to FP’s coverage of the woman most likely to become the next U.S. president.
“Head of State,” by Susan B. Glasser
FP’s former editor in chief profiled Clinton in 2012 and interviewed the secretary during a moment of crisis for the relationship between the United States in China: the tense negotiations over the fate of the blind dissident lawyer Chen Guangcheng. Glasser’s profile examines Clinton’s role within the Obama administration and how to leverage the power of her office in the 21st century:
In our interview, I had asked her about the blind dissident, and the perennially tough set of choices between the human rights advocacy that means so much to her and the pragmatic politics that are so often required in her job. She answered instead by talking about an emotional three-hour meeting she recently had with one of her heroes, Aung San Suu Kyi. The frail Burmese activist had won a Nobel Peace Prize for her brave defiance of her country’s military junta, before making the surprise decision this year to run for parliament and cooperate with Burma’s reformist new leader. “She could have been on a pedestal her entire life,” said Clinton. “But she wants to be in the real world and see if she can make a difference.”
The more Clinton waxed on about Aung San Suu Kyi, the more I thought she was also talking about herself — a celebrity first lady who could have chosen to opt out of politics entirely but instead launched a whole new career as an ambitious U.S. senator turned combative presidential candidate before morphing yet again over the last few years.
“America’s Pacific Century,” by Hillary Clinton
The so-called “pivot to Asia” has been one of the most ballyhooed and equally vague initiatives of the Obama administration, and it was Clinton who announced the venture, describing it in the pages of FP:
As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point. Over the last 10 years, we have allocated immense resources to those two theaters. In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region.
Vali Nasr joined the Obama administration to work under Richard Holbrooke on Afghanistan and Pakistan. His inside account of his time in government is one of the most scathing accounts of the Obama administration’s handling of foreign-policy issues, and the White House’s suspicions of Clinton:
But my time in the Obama administration turned out to be a deeply disillusioning experience. The truth is that his administration made it extremely difficult for its own foreign-policy experts to be heard. Both Clinton and Holbrooke, two incredibly dedicated and talented people, had to fight to have their voices count on major foreign-policy initiatives.
Holbrooke never succeeded. Clinton did — but it was often a battle. It usually happened only when it finally became clear to a White House that jealously guarded all foreign policymaking — and then relied heavily on the military and intelligence agencies to guide its decisions — that these agencies’ solutions were no substitute for the type of patient, credible diplomacy that garners the respect and support of allies. Time and again, when things seemed to be falling apart, the administration finally turned to Clinton because it knew she was the only person who could save the situation.
“Top Ten Tough Questions for Hillary Clinton,” by Stephen M. Walt
On the occasion of her last day as America’s top diplomat, FP columnist Stephen Walt had some questions for Clinton:
Today is Hillary Rodham Clinton’s last day as secretary of state. She’s been receiving mostly accolades for her service, including considerable praise from President Obama in a recent joint televised interview. But with the exception of the mean-spirited and highly partisan grilling she got from a congressional committee over Benghazi, most of the interviews I’ve seen have been pretty gentle affairs. I’ve sufficient respect for Secretary Clinton’s talents and intellect that I’d like to see her take a swing at a few fastballs.
“Hillary’s Burma Problem,” by Catherine A. Traywick and John Hudson
The American opening toward Burma stands out as one of Clinton’s signature achievements as secretary of state, but democratic backsliding in that country threatens to make it a stain on her resume:
One morning in late 2011, Hillary Clinton visited Aung San Suu Kyi’s weathered, lakeside villa to talk politics. It was the early days of Myanmar’s transformation from an authoritarian pariah state to a budding democracy, and the meeting was historic: No senior U.S. official had visited the country in 50 years and Suu Kyi had spent the last 15 of those under house arrest. The talks between the U.S. secretary of state and the leading icon of Myanmar’s embattled democracy movement became a powerful symbol of progress for a country trying to climb out from under decades of political and economic misrule. But today, the promise of a free and democratic Myanmar is rapidly receding as sectarian violence escalates and the government backslides on a number of past reforms.
“Sorry, Hillary: I Should Have Voted for You,” by Rosa Brooks
FP columnist Rosa Brooks spent the 2008 campaign attacking Clinton as a just another Washington pol. Now, she’s one of many Democrats experiencing a sense of buyer’s remorse:
Hillary, I owe you an apology.
Back in 2008, I was sure — absolutely, completely, utterly sure — that Barack Obama would make a better president than you would. With the benefit of hindsight, I now think I was wrong.
Perhaps not absolutely, completely, utterly wrong, but wrong all the same.
“Every Time She Thinks She’s Out, They Pull Her Back In,” by Gopal Ratnam
With Iraq consumed by a widening civil war and fighting in Syria continuing unabated, 2016 will likely see at least some attention devoted to America’s role in the Middle East, one that Clinton helped formulate — or at least tried to — during her time at the State Department:
Hillary Clinton finds herself in an uncomfortable spotlight as two books coming out next week from former colleagues show her pressing President Barack Obama to keep troops in Iraq but being overruled, giving critics of the White House new fuel for their argument that the current crisis in Iraq is a result of Obama’s refusal to heed the advice of his top national security officials.
The books, by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill, paint Obama’s inner circle of advisers as feckless and distrustful of the military, but the excerpts that have trickled out ahead of the Oct. 7 publication of both works also highlight Clinton’s opposition to the president’s handling of the Iraq troop withdrawal, discussions over what the United States should give in order to free missing U.S. prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl, and whether to arm the moderate Syrian opposition.
Bryan Thomas/Getty Images